In the early 1980s, McVities dominated the round-brown biscuit market.

Their biggest sellers were: digestive, rich tea, gingernuts, and chocolate-digestive.

The only problem was the names of their biscuits.

Sticking with traditional thinking, the names were descriptions of what was inside.

The thinking was that people would only be likely to buy a product if they knew what was in the packet and, conversely, not if they didn’t.

The problem was descriptions were words that everyone could use, they couldn’t be copyrighted.

Which meant supermarkets could copy the product and name, and have own-label sitting next to the original.

That way they took advantage of McVities’ advertising without paying for it, they could sell what was apparently the same product but cheaper.

Obviously, this was a problem for McVities, own-label copies were taking a lot of their sales.

They needed to launch a new round-brown biscuit that supermarkets couldn’t copy.

So Pam Langworthy, head of NPD, did a lot of research and found the opportunity for something that looked and tasted more home-made.

In the test kitchens, Simon Robertson came up with a new type of round-brown biscuit,borrowing from the flapjacks his mother used to make.

He started with the traditional biscuit recipe: flour, fat, sugar, and water, but then added two kinds of oats: smaller oats for flavour, and jumbo oats for texture and appearance.

This gave the new biscuits a nutty, chewy taste and a more natural, home-made look.

So the product was right, now they needed a name.

Because of the problem with descriptive names being copied, Pam Langworthy wanted a name they could copyright.

She liked the nobbly look of the new biscuits, she thought cooking on an old-fashioned hob sounded traditional, so she decided to call them ‘Hobnobs’.

She also liked the play on words, to hobnob meant to mix with posh people, so it also made the biscuit sound classy in a cheeky way.

The problems began when she and her colleague, Andy Easdale, presented it to the board.

They loved the biscuit and wanted to know what it would be called.

When they were told ‘Hobnobs’ they weren’t pleased at all.

Their reaction was that it didn’t tell anyone what sort of biscuit was inside the pack.

It was ‘straying from the norm’, it even sounded ‘snobby’ and ‘rude’.

They wanted to give it a conventional descriptive name, like: ‘Oaty Crunchy’.

Pam and Andy insisted, if they gave it a descriptive name like ‘Oaty Crunchy’ it could just be copied by own-label products, they’d defeat the whole purpose of the exercise.

It had to have a name that wasn’t merely descriptive so it couldn’t be copied.

The board weren’t happy but eventually they gave in.

The biscuits were launched, they were called Hobnobs.

The advertising showed that they were irresistible: “One nibble and you’re nobbled”.

In 2014 a survey showed Hobnobs was the UK’s favourite biscuit, it’s also sold in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Taiwain, China, Hong Kong, Italy and Canada.

And one of the main reasons for its success was the name couldn’t be copied.

Conventional thinking then was that a product name had to be descriptive.

It took Pam Langworthy to show people that a brand could plug the holes in the bucket.

So that advertising investment wouldn’t keep leaking out of the marketing bucket via own-label copies.

And that whatever current conventional thinking is, it isn’t there to be obeyed, it’s there to be questioned.